Monday, 23 March 2009

The language of defeat

“Exit strategy.” Now when Obama used those words in talking about Afghanistan on CBS yesterday, I don’t believe he meant what the jackals and vultures must hope he meant. I don’t think he meant what the schoolgirls of Afghanistan and Pakistan might fear he meant. I don’t believe he was even intending to speak to those people. His words were aimed to reassure his electorate.

But words travel (AP, AFP, BBC) and when the enemy hear “exit strategy” they will think of America’s flight from Vietnam, from Lebanon, from Somalia. They will smell blood and gain strength, just as doubts about American steadfastness will grow in the hearts of the good people of Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

And amongst those currently in the employ of the enemy, whatever number might potentially be enticed away by better prospects, they certainly won’t be encouraged to change direction by talk of an American exit strategy.

Obama closed his remarks on Afghanistan by saying “it is not acceptable for us to simply sit back and let safe havens of terrorists plan and plot”. If safe havens for terrorists are not acceptable, and if America is eventually to leave, then the only acceptable exit strategy is a victory strategy for democratic government in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Musharraf experience shows that the notion of an acceptable dictator is not a viable alternative for security.

Enough of exit strategies. The only worthwhile aim in war is victory. To set about the business of killing for anything less is grotesque. Let’s hear about a victory strategy, a strategy of security through victory for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan to govern themselves free of violence and intimidation.

Update: A stronger message from Obama, via Daimnation.

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